Wyoming Firsts

State Firsts

Wyoming may not have been the first in nation in these cases, but they are the first of such occurrences in Wyoming.

1st American flag raised over Wyoming: John C. Fremont raised a 26-star U.S. flag atop Mount Woodrow Wilson, Wind River Range, August 15, 1842. The flag, designed by Fremont’s wife, included more than the usual stars and stripes. Mrs. Fremont included an outline of an American eagle within the design.

1st Post Office: Fort Laramie, Nebraska Territory, 1850. This was the first in what would become the state of Wyoming.

1st Schools: Fort Bridger and Fort Laramie.

1st Coal Mine: Union Pacific coal mine at Carbon, 1860s. The abundance of coal in southwest Wyoming, along with the gentle grade and ease of crossing the Continental Divide near Rawlins, led Union Pacific surveyors to plan the route of the 1st transcontinental railroad through the area.

1st Newspaper: The Daily Telegraph, is published briefly by Hiram Brundage at Fort Bridger.

1st State (Territorial) Statue Relating to Drug Control: Restricting sale and use of opiates, 1886.

1st Legal Execution:

1st High School: Cheyenne 1875, followed by Buffalo in 1881 and Newcastle 1889.

1st Telephone Call: Between Cheyenne and Laramie, demonstration using Bell equipment, 1878.

1st African-American Legislator: William Jefferson Hardin, 1879.

1st Telephone Exchange: Cheyenne, 1881. The early telephone listing was printed on yellow paper, leading many to believe this to be the first instance of the "yellow pages."

1st Oil Well: Dallas Dome, Fremont County, 1885.

1st Female Newspaper Editor: Gertrude Huntington, Platte Valley Lyre, 1890. Gertrude and her sister Laura also became the first women to own a newspaper in Wyoming when they purchased the Lyre in 1890. Other early female editors were Edith Chappell of the Buffalo Bulletin in 1897 and Mary Parmelee at the same weekly in 1899; and Cora Preston of the Wind River Mountaineer in 1899.[1]

1st Woman Elected to a State-wide Office: Estelle Reel was elected Superintendent of Public Instruction in 1894. She was the second individual to hold the position. Evidence suggests that she was not the first woman in the nation. That honor belongs to Laura Eisenhuth of North Dakota, who won the office of state Superintendent of Public Instruction in the fall of 1892.

1st Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo: 1897.

1st Rhodes Scholar: Harold G. Merriam, 1904.

1st Auto Accident on Record: 1906.

1st Female Legislator: Mary Godat Bellamy, 1910.

1st Female Mayor: Susan Wissler, Dayton, elected 1911.

1st License Plates: 1913. County numbers were added in 1930 and the iconic bucking horse in 1936. Jacob M. Schwob, known as the father of Wyoming's "good roads" and the license plate law, was given plate number 1 in perpetuity by the state Legislature in 1913. When the county numbers were added in 1930, the statute was amended so that Natrona County was required to mail plate 1-1 to Park County for Schwob's use. After his death, Schwob's widow used plate 1-1 until her remarriage in the mid-1930s, at which point the legislators from Natrona County insisted that plate 1-1 be returned to their county and the statute was again changed.

1st Town Governed by Women: Dubbed the "petticoat government" by the press, the town of Jackson elected 3 councilwomen, a female town marshal and a female mayor in 1920. Several of the women were reelected during the next election.

1st Radio Station: KDFN, Casper began broadcasting on February 19, 1930.

1st Woman Elected to the Eastern Shoshone Tribal Business Council: Irene Kinnear Meade, 1930.

1st Female State Senator: Dora McGrath of Hot Springs County, 1931.

1st Woman Elected to the Northern Arapaho Tribal Business Council: Nellie Scott, 1937.

1st State of the State Address Broadcast by Radio: Governor Nels Smith, January 17, 1941.

1st Mixed Jury: Sweetwater County, May 8, 1950. According to Cora Beach’s Women of Wyoming, Volume I, just after the selection of the 1st female jurors in 1870, the lawyers and pundits began to push for a literal reading of the law describing jury qualifications. It had been passed prior to the act granting women’s suffrage and thus specified that the jurors be male. As no one pushed to change the law, the supreme court did not provide a definitive decision nor was the law changed by the legislature until 1949. The first mixed jury in Wyoming, and thus the 1st female jurors in 80 years, sat the next year, on May 8, 1950.

1st Female State Treasurer: Minnie Mitchell, appointed to fill the unexpired term of her husband, J.R. Mitchell, 1953.

1st Television Station: KFBC, Cheyenne began broadcasting on March 21, 1954.

1st Woman Appointed to Staff of Attorney General: Ellen Crowley, 1958.

1st Female Commissioned Officer in the Wyoming National Guard: Wanda Batna, 1973.

1st African American Miss Wyoming: Cheryl Johnson of Cheyenne, 1974.

1st Execution by Lethal Injection: Mark Hopkinson, January 22, 1991.

1st Wind Farm: Foote Creek Rim near Arlington, completed in 1999.

1st Female Wyoming Supreme Court Justice: Justice Marilyn Stebner Kite, 2000. Justice Kite also became the court's first female Chief Justice in 2010.

1st Community wide Smoking Ban Ordinance: Laramie, 2005. This included all restaurants and bars.
1st Judicial District Judged Entirely by Women: Laramie County Circuit Court, 2009. Hon. Denise Nau, Hon. Roberta Coates, Hon. Catherine R. Rogers. [2]

1st Community to Pass a Non-Descrimination ordinance: Laramie, May 2015

1st Female president of the University of Wyoming: Laurie Nichols, 2015

Legal Firsts

National Firsts

Wyoming has led the nation in many areas, sometimes setting a precedent that is far ahead of the nation, as with universal suffrage and national parks.

1st Trading Post West of the Missouri River: Fort William was erected as a trading post by William Sublette and Robert Campbell at the confluence of the Laramie and North Platte Rivers. Fort William was later renamed Fort Laramie. This may also have been the first business west of the Missouri River.

1st State to Grant Women's Suffrage: In 1869, the first Wyoming Territorial Assembly passed the Women's Suffrage Act granting women the right to vote and hold public office in the state. When Wyoming became a state in 1890, this right was written into Article 8 of the new constitution ensuring universal suffrage.

1st Female Justice of the Peace: Esther Hobart Morris, appointed February 17, 1870 in South Pass City. Her first act after taking office was charge her predecessor for failing to hand over the court's records to her. She dropped the charges due to her conflict of interest as both plaintiff and judge but kept her own docket book during her term.

1st All-female Jury: Laramie, sworn in on March 7, 1870.

1st Female Bailiff: Martha Symons Boies Atkinson appointed to see to the needs of the first all-female jury, 1870 in Laramie.

1st National Park: Yellowstone National Park, March 1, 1872.

1st County Library System: Laramie County, organized August 1886.

1st (and only) US Military Fort Named for a Native American: Fort Washakie, named for Chief Washakie of the Eastern Shoshone.

1st Ranger Station: Wapiti Range Station in Shoshone National Forest, 1891.

1st National Forest: Shoshone National Forest, 1891.

1st Female Delegate to Presidential Convention: Theresa Jenkins, Republican National Convention, 1892.

1st National Monument: Devil's Tower National Monument, 1903

1st Female Governor: Nellie Tayloe Ross was elected Governor on November 5, 1924. Although she and Ma Ferguson of Texas were elected on the same day, Ross was inaugurated two weeks before Ferguson, on January 5, 1925, and thus holds the title. Ross' husband, Governor William B. Ross, had passed away suddenly almost exactly one month before she was elected. She did not campaign for herself leading up to the election as she was still in mourning and wore black for much of her term. She ran for re-election in 1926, but narrowly lost to Frank Emerson.

1st Artificially Lit Evening Prep Football Game: High school game Natrona County High School at Midwest High School, November 19, 1925. [3]

1st Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) base in the world: Warren Air Force Base, 1958.

1st State to Use Yellow Paint on Highway Stripes: 1959. Disregarding federal regulations requiring white stripes on interstate highways, the Legislature passes the Yellow Stripe Act, requiring that the markings on all highways in the state be yellow on the premise that the color shows up better during snow storms. The Federal Highway Commission settles the matter by ruling that all states must conform and use yellow paint or lose federal aid. (Session Laws 1959, ch. 30 and 179)

1st African-American Chief of Police: James W. Byrd, Cheyenne, 1966.

1st Federally Protected Wildlife Corridor: Path of the Pronghorns, 2008. Each year, 500-600 pronghorn antelope travel along the 150 mile route between their summer range in Grand Teton National Park to their winter range in the Green River Valley in the longest land mammal migration in the lower 48 states. The wildlife corridor was established to help ensure that the route remains open and viable for the herd, especially in some of the narrow "pinch points" that are threatened by mineral development and suburban expansion.

1st female US Army Infantry NCO: Wyoming National Guard Sgt. Shelby Atkins, 2016.[4]

Additional Resources

  1. ^ "The "Lyre Girls": First Women Newspaper Owners in Wyoming," by Lori Van Pelt, WyoHistory.org. (accessed July 2015)
  2. ^ "Circuit Court Judged Entirely By Women" by Michael Van Cassell, Wyoming Tribune Eagle, September 26, 2009. (accessed September 2015)
  3. ^ "Let There Be Light!: 1st Prep Football Night Game," Wyoming Postscripts, Wyoming State Archives, November 19, 2015. (accessed November 2015)
  4. ^ "This Sergeant at Arms is the Army's First Enlisted Infantry Soldier," by Michelle Tan, Army Times, May 27, 2016. (accessed March 2017)